Saturday, September 30, 2006

=?MACINTOSH?Q?Faith_and_doubt_=D1_Changes_or_differences_in_spou?= =?MACINTOSH?Q?ses'_beliefs_put_heavy_strain_on_marriage?=

Deseret Morning News, Saturday, September 30, 2006

Faith and doubt — Changes or differences in spouses' beliefs put heavy strain on marriage

By Elaine Jarvik
Deseret Morning News

Tom Kimball's long and winding path from faith to doubt began shortly before he got married. But he was young then, and he assumed that what he now calls his "low-level" doubts would just go away. Meanwhile, Page Kimball assumed she was marrying not only an Eagle Scout and a returned missionary but a man whose faith was unshakable.

It's not like a person wakes up one morning and decides, "Today I'll start doubting," Tom says. But there it was: Things just didn't make sense anymore. And once he started questioning one thing it seemed like it opened the door to yet another uncertainty.

What he wanted to do was talk about his doubts with Page. But those questions at first annoyed her, then angered her, and then frightened her. She didn't understand, she explains now, "why he didn't love me enough to just believe."

If a couple marries, knowing that one person is a believer and one isn't, that's one thing, says Salt Lake therapist Marybeth Raynes. At least there's forewarning, even if deep down the believer hopes that the non-believer will change. But when the spiritual ground starts to shift in a marriage right under a couple's feet, that's a lot more wrenching, she says.

Sometimes one spouse will become less religious. Or more religious. Sometimes there will be differences about specific dogma, or sometime one spouse will begin to doubt the existence of God. The most lethal mix, says Raynes, is when one spouse is still a believer and the other becomes bitter about religion. Sometimes the sense of betrayal, the sense that a religion isn't true after all, becomes the lens through which the person views everything else in life, "the focal point of other disappointments," Raynes says.

Often, says Grace Baptist Church's Rev. Pat Edwards, it's a "crisis scenario" that causes one spouse (or sometimes both) to falter in faith. "Oftentimes it's the loss of a child or a sibling. People say, if there was really a God, he wouldn't allow this suffering to take place." In a crisis like that, the Rev. Edwards says, "what happens is that very few people stay where they're at. They either go closer to God or question God or deny God."

When one spouse begins to doubt, "the other spouse feels a tremendous loss," he says. "Suddenly not only has there been this crisis, but now there's no longer this shared resource they can go to."

But it's not always a crisis that pushes someone toward doubt or inactivity. One of the Rev. Edwards' parishioners recalls a time a decade ago when she began "veering" — started putting God on hold, she says. "It wasn't so much a mental process of 'does God exist?' but a compartmentalizing. ... There was a Sunday me and a Monday me."

Her husband stuck with her, she says. "He prayed fervently for me. He just hung in there. And I think his faith was strengthened during that experience. He had to hang on more to God order to survive it."

The collision of faith and doubt in a marriage is prevalent enough to have spawned a collection of self-help books with titles like "When He Doesn't Believe: Help and Encouragement for Women Who Feel Alone in Their Faith," "Beloved Unbeliever" and "Spiritually Single: Living with an Unbelieving Husband."

Some religions discourage couples from marrying if they don't share the same beliefs. "The word of God says that two should not be 'unequally yoked together,"' says Pastor Jim Ayers of Valley Assembly of God, quoting Second Corinthians. "With all the problems in life, to add a faith issue, where one maybe doesn't even believe in God or is indifferent at best" just adds another burden, says the Rev. Ayers.

But if a couple is already married and one spouse "steps away" from religion, he says, "the believer is to remain with the unbeliever." He cites First Corinthians: "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband."

Sometimes a marriage is knocked off-kilter when one spouse becomes more religious. One Layton woman says that now that she has started attending church "there's a part where we just don't relate and at times it's really hard." On Sundays, she and the children go to worship and her husband goes to Barnes & Noble.

Her husband has told her, "Don't have any expectations" that he will become involved with the family's religious life. Sometimes he'll stay after church for the congregational pancake breakfast — "If that's a step, it's a step," the wife says. "If that's as far as he wants to go, I have to be OK with it."

As her pastor says: "It's not up to you to bring that person back into the fold, it's up to God. Just pray and be a good person."

In Troy Bowles' marriage, his wife became more active in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after their children were born. Bowles himself is an agnostic who grew up in a polygamous household. Now a philosophy major at the University of Utah and getting a divorce, Bowles says that as his wife got more religious he started to feel "more isolated and lonely."

Even if couples share a faith but differ on specific dogma — "Should we tithe on gross or net? What's legitimate to do on Sunday?"— that can cause huge rifts, too, says therapist Raynes. Couples who have trouble communicating, whose first impulse is to fight, will do it around any issue, she says.

What works best for a marriage, she says, is "if each spouse can really see the other's position and respect it, and not go into a regressed state of blame and threats." In a case where one spouse's position about faith changes, she says, both spouses can be in "deep anguish."

What helps is for each spouse to "return to why do you love each other," Raynes says, "to notice all the good things in the relationship."

When one Salt Lake wife faced her husband's drifting faith — he started drinking coffee and no longer believed the literalness of his church's theology — a friend suggested she get a divorce. "And I said, 'for that?"' She worries how far her husband's doubts will take him, "but I'm so in love with him, what can I do?" she says.

In the end, Page Kimball also decided that her marriage came first, as she explained recently at a Sunstone Symposium panel called "For Better, For Worse, For Apostasy?"

Tom Kimball thinks of himself as a Stage Four in the hierarchy of faith development delineated by Emory University professor James Fowler. As Kimball explains it, Stage 4 is when "you find loose ends (in your religion) and as you try to put them back together you find more, and you feel betrayed."

When Tom first started questioning his Mormon religion and his faith in God, he and Page spent quite a few years not talking about it. It was just too painful, Page says. "I felt so threatened." Because her religion believes in eternal marriage, the stakes were especially high. And praying together about Tom's doubts was out of the question.

In the end, Page says, "I stopped looking at him through the church's eyes. I stopped trying to make him what I thought he should be, that vision of what a husband and priesthood holder should be. I just had to let that go and look at him for the wonderful person he is."

Her decision to love and accept Tom improved their marriage, she says, but "his doubts opened a door for mine." For a while, she began looking at other religions. For his part, Tom has decided to stay connected to his culture and his church. He remains "70 percent active," and attends Elders Quorum each Sunday, where he finds that the other men have gone out of their way to make him feel wanted, even though they know he has reservations about Mormon history and theology. Now Page is back at the ward, too.

Their relationship with religion, and their ability to find a spirituality they can share, is a work in progress. Meanwhile, Tom has a certainty about doubt: it's "how you become a mature person and build a mature faith."



Church has put a stop to missions in Venezuela

Mormon Church Cancels Missions To Venezuela

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SALT LAKE CITY The LDS Church has put a stop to missions in Venezuela.

Spokesman Dale Bills says difficulties concerning visas for
missionaries has led The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
to remove its missionaries from Venezuela.

Bills says the problem involves renewing visas and obtaining new visas
for missionaries serving in that country. He says the church will
reassign missionaries serving in Venezuela to other Spanish-speaking
missions in Latin America, the United States and Canada.

Here's the officical statement from the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter Day Saints:

"The Church has experienced difficulty over the past few months in
renewing visas for missionaries, and in obtaining new visas, in
Venezuela. Consequently, it has decided to reassign U.S. missionaries
serving in Venezuela to other Spanish-speaking missions in Latin
America, the U.S. and Canada where such missionaries are needed.
Parents have been advised accordingly. The Church will keep the matter
under review."

The Work and the Glory: American Zion (2 stars out of 5)

The Work and the Glory: American Zion (2 stars out of 5)
Passionless Mormon story falls flat

American Zion is the second film in the Latter Day cinema series, The
Work and the Glory, about the early history of the Mormon Church. It
details the fictional rifts in the Steed family, New York farmers torn
apart by some members' embracing of neighbor Joseph Smith's claims
that he's a prophet of a new faith.

American Zion follows the Steeds -- patriarch and
reluctant-to-turn-Mormon Ben (Sam Hennings); his Mormon son Nathan
(Alexander Carroll) and his prodigal son, the faithless gambler Joshua
(Eric Johnson); and the Smiths -- Jonathan Scarfe plays Joseph -- as
they search for the Promised Land in the 1830s.

Zion, Smith tells his followers, is the city the Lord will build
(through Mormons) in North America, where "we will all be of one heart
and one mind." He just can't seem to find it on the map.

Hounded out of New York state, tarred and feathered in what was
supposed to be Zion -- Kirtland, Ohio -- and further hassled in
Missouri, Smith fast-tracks his branch of nascent Christianity 1,200
years straight past pacifism and turning the other cheek to the
Crusades. He raises a private army to go and get Mormon land back.

Fascinating material on many levels. But what could have been an
involving and tortured journey of a flexible faith and the troubling
history of Smith, his church and rural America's reaction to it, is a
flat and unemotional affair that deflates just when it should grow
more tense and exciting.

Sterling Van Wagenen, a producer (The Trip to Bountiful) and director
who used to run the film program at the University of Central Florida,
returns to directing with this, a movie with a nice sense of its era,
but dully acted by blank-faced players playing blase characters. It's
a movie totally without pace or a sense of drama.

The film never quite proselytizes, as it sets up the new church as a
true faith, glossing over the fuzzy founding story detailed in the
first Work and the Glory film. Here, Mormons are the devout chosen,
upright, hard-working (white) men, women smiling beatifically at their
swelling bellies, a church of abolitionists set upon by racists,
slaveholders and book burners. History backs up much of that.

But martyrs or not, there is no emotional heat to the many times Ben
flatly drones, "They're tearing this family apart." Even the uplifting
hymns or cruel hardships of their persecution fail to move.

Scarfe is emblematic of the movie's problems. He can't play his
neo-crucifixion, Smith's tar-and-feathering, with conviction. He wanly
fake-struggles through what had to be a wrenching experience.

There's another movie in this series on the way, A House Divided. But
unless the filmmakers can heighten the drama (this was filmed and
rushed through editing) and ratchet up the emotion, these movies
should go straight to video, or a Mormon church near you. They aren't
effective outreach, or entertaining drama.


Lectures to focus on 200 year anniversary of Mormon founder

By Diane Haag

In the 26 years Brent Merrill has lived in Shreveport, he's heard a
range of reactions to his membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints from curious to condemning to "how many wives do you

(Answer: one, and more would get him excommunicated.)

Next week Merrill, the president of the Shreveport Stake or region,
hopes many of the old myths and stereotypes can be corrected through a
lecture/film series at Centenary College.

The event, marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of the founder
of the church, Joseph Smith, is sponsored by the church and the
religious studies department at the college. It will bring in some of
the premier scholars of the Latter-day Saints.

"We're thrilled," Merrill said. "We don't have as strong of a foothold
in the South. We're hoping to help understanding of him and his
influence in religious culture."

Peter Huff, chair of the religious studies department, organized the
event and invited the scholars. They include Jan Shipps, a Methodist
and the "foremost non-Mormon, Mormon scholar"; Richard Bushman, a
Latter-day Saint and biographer of Smith; and a dialogue between a
Baptist minister and a professor at Brigham Young University, which is
supported by the church.

"It's extraordinary -- we were able to organize things our way and the
church not only funded it, but opened itself up for public scrutiny,"
Huff said.

Music professor Ross Smith, who is a member of the church and helped
with the event, said the Mormon community is thrilled at the prospects
of the event.

"These are really top scholars in the field," he said. "This is the
first event of its kind in Shreveport."

Merrill hopes church members attending the event become more
comfortable with their religious identity.

"I hope they recognize we have something very precious," he said.

Joseph Smith's story begins in Vermont, where he was born to a poor
farmer. He grew up in upstate New York under the influence of great
religious fervor sweeping the Northeast.

All of the revivals, fiery preaching and new worship styles only
confused the teenage Smith. So he asked God which church to join.

According to Mormon tradition, God appeared to him with an answer: none.

That was the first of several visions which eventually led to his
writing the Book of Mormon (where the nickname for the church comes
from) and founding the church, now headquartered in Salt Lake City.

Nearly 200 years later, Smith is celebrated as prophet by some and
derided as cult leader by others. And academics like Huff are

"He produces a book I can't explain," he said. "I don't accept it as
revelation but it's not plagiarism. For me, he's one of the creative
geniuses that America has produced."

Meanwhile the church is one of the fastest growing in the world and
also gaining more acceptance in the religious community, including a
recent Newsweek cover story.

The local stake includes 3,200 believers in northwest Louisiana,
southern Arkansas and some of east Texas.

Nationally, the religion has grown by more than 400,000 people -- or 7
percent -- from 1999 to 2004. The religion has more than 12 million
members worldwide.

"We're growing and being recognized as part of the mainstream,"
Merrill said. "People are finding out we are just like everyone else.
We pray, study scripture and do all those things Baptists and
Methodists and others do."

Over the years, there has been much debate about whether or not the
church is Christian. They say they are Christian, having a belief in
Jesus as the son of God, but they are a "restoration" of the original
church -- so they are not part of either the Catholic or Protestant

One of the scholars, Shipps, will put them in context Tuesday night.
Huff said part of the confusion about classifying LDS comes from
within the church.

"Some see it as a new religion," he said. "Others see it as a restored
Christianity. Latter-day Saints in the second category are interested
in mainstreaming their faith in American culture, developing positive
relations with traditional Christians, especially Evangelicals."(Smith
was) not starting a new denomination," Huff said. "He's not a Baptist
moving away from Calvin. He's claiming direct contact with God."

On social and moral issues, Latter-day Saints resemble other
conservative Christian churches, strongly supporting the family, and
opposing alcohol, pre-marital sex and gambling.

The biggest points of contention between them and other Christians are
the Mormon beliefs in a prophet and in scripture that came after Jesus
and the New Testament.

"We believe (God) leads the church through prophets just like he did
in ancient times," Merrill said.

Merrill and Huff both credit the current growth of the church not to
Smith himself, but to the idea of ongoing revelation and to the fact
that it is a religion that places much demand on followers.

"It's not for the faint of heart. It requires pain and sacrifice,"
Merrill said. "This is not a church where you can just sit back and
ride. We expect everyone to pull."

Courtney Lacy, a religious studies major who attended Centenary's
Mormon study tour this summer, said the believers themselves make the
church attractive.

"They're just really dedicated to what they believe and really
compassionate, generous people," she said. "You know there's something
behind all this."

Fwd: Falwell's "Whipping" Remarks

During his September 25th sermon to his Thomas Road Baptist Church
congregation, the Rev. Jerry Falwell examined the freedoms enjoyed by
Americans and turned to the issue of what should happen to so-called
"un-patriotic" Americans: "You know when I see somebody burning the flag, I=
a Baptist preacher I'm not a Mennonite, I feel it's my obligation to whip h=
In the name of the Lord of course. I feel it's my obligation to whip him, a=
if I can't do it then I look up some of my athletes to help me.

But, as long as at 72 I can handle most of the jobs I do it myself, and I d=
think it's un-spiritual. When I, when I, when I hear somebody talking about
our military and ridiculing and saying terrible things about our President,=
thinking you know just a little bit of that and I believe the Lord would
forgive me if I popped him."

Bush is most popular in Utah

Article Last Updated: 10/19/2005 08:08 AM
Bush is most popular in Utah

Poll: More than 60 percent of the Beehive state approves of the
president, but most other Americans do not

By Matt Canham
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune

Americans at large are not pleased with their president. But Utahns
still love him more than any other state.
The Iraq war, the unstable economy, the much-criticized federal
response to Hurricane Katrina and the ongoing probe into White House
leaks that may have unmasked a CIA agent all have contributed to
President Bush's image problems.
Only 38 percent of Americans give Bush the thumbs up, the lowest
approval ratings of his presidency, according to a SurveyUSA report
released Tuesday
Utah is the only state to provide Bush with an approval rating
above 60 percent. While 18 states give Bush a disapproval rating of at
least 60 percent.
"The people of Utah have a long-term vision of what this president
stands for," said Ron Fox, who was the vice chairman of Bush's 2004
campaign effort in Utah. "The people of Utah understand the
president's agenda and his focus, the necessity of a war on terror."
But Democratic state Rep. Pat Jones, of Holladay, said a lengthy
examination of Bush's agenda should result in negative opinion polls.
"In looking at the long-term, I can say that most people's lives
are not better today than they were before his administration."
She attributed Utah's high marks for Bush to the state's heavy
Republican tilt and the relatively low number of minority residents.
"But to be very honest, I'm stunned," she said. "I can't explain,
after all of the things that have gone on in the White House, some of
the policies of the current administration. I'm stunned to see him
receive this kind of support.
"The people of Utah may not understand the harmful effects that
deficit spending will have on our future and our children."
During the past five months, Utah's approval rating for the
president hit its low in mid-August when it dipped down to 57 percent.
A little more than a week later, Bush briefly visited Utah for only
the second time as president.
He spoke at a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention to rally support
for the Iraq war after anti-war protesters camped outside his Texas
ranch, where he had been vacationing.
The next poll showed his Utah approval rating back up to 63 percent.
The SurveyUSA poll questioned 600 adults in each state. Conducted
Friday through Sunday, it has a margin of error in Utah of plus or
minus 4 percent.

Dialogue, Fall 2005

A Journal of Mormon Thought
Fall 2005 (Vol. 38, No. 3)
Levi S. Peterson, EDITOR
Paperback. 208 Pages / 002-2157 / $15.00



Haitian Mormons, Gary Huxford

Folklore Rebutted, Larry Morris


Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamist, 1841 - 1844,
Gary James Bergera

The Remnant Church: An RLDS Schimatic Group finds a Prophet of
Joseph's Seed, William D. Russell

The Weight of Priesthood, Stephen Carter



Getting Out, Ben Christensen

Homosexual Attraction and LDS Mriage Decisions, Ron Schow

Thoughts of a Therapist, Marybeth Raynes

Staying In, Ben Christensen


Carterville, Douglas Thayer
Garden Tomb, Spencer Ellsworth


The Peach, Patricia Gunter Karamesines
The Good Shepherd, Craig Watts
Salad for Two, Henry L. Miles


Walking in the Sand: A History of the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints in Ghana, Emmanuel Abu Kissi,
Reviewed by Mark T. Decker

Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet, Dan Vogel,
Reviewed by William D. Russell

Beliving History: Latter-day Saint Essays,
Richard Lyman Bushman,
Reviewed by Byron C. Smith

Conflict in the Quorum: Orson Pratt, Brigham Young, Joseph Smith, Gary
James Bergera,
Reviewed by Michael W. Homer

Discoveries: Two Centuries of Poems by Mormon Women, Sheree Maxwell
Bench and Susan Eliabeth Howe, eds.,
Reviewed by Danielle Dubrasky

Hoffman 20 year retrospective

Fwd: Miami Herald Review of Rough Stone Rolling


The life of a prophet, with most of its flaws

The author paints an intricate and sometimes contradictory picture of
the life and work of the founder of Mormonism.


JOSEPH SMITH: Rough Stone Rolling: A Cultural Biography of Mormonism's

Lyman Bushman. Knopf. 768 pages. $35.

Prophets aren't always saints. Expect violence, adultery, hubris and
power-mongering from Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism and the complex,
slippery hero of Richard Lyman Bushman's exhaustive new biography.

Bushman's 768-page behemoth is more methodical and less splashy than
other recent narratives tracing the formation of the Mormon church, including
Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of a Violent Faith, a
journalistic thriller linking the modern fundamentalist Church of the Latter
Day Saints to the violent behavior of its founder, and Martha Beck's Leaving
the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith, an insider's exposé on
the church's breakaway polygamist branch. But for a painstakingly researched
historical portrait filled with cultural minutiae and scholarly digressions,
Rough Stone Rolling is almost never dull.

Skeptical readers may worry Bushman, a practicing Mormon, will attempt
to make over his religion's founder, but he does nothing of the sort. Bushman
devotes far less space to the early Mormon practice of polygamy than Krakauer
and Beck, but to his credit, he confronts the less savory aspect of his
prophet's persona head on.

At the outset, the author reveals himself as a believer, one who takes
it on faith that Smith was divinely guided to produce the Book of Mormon and
proclaim himself the temporal and spiritual leader of his early followers. But
Bushman, a Harvard-educated historian and a professor emeritus at Columbia
University, takes Smith's shortcomings as part of the prophet-package. The
book explores Smith's early years as a treasure seeker who dabbled in the
occult, his mid-career pronouncement that church members should transfer their
property to the church and his later teaching that men could have multiple

Smith was born to Protestant shopkeepers in Sharon, Vt., on Dec. 23,
1805. At 14, he began receiving revelations in dreams. Three years later,
Smith had his first vision of the Angel Moroni; by 1830, he had published the
Book of Mormon. It took Smith 10 years to translate the Mormon Bible after
first discovering, through Moroni, golden plates buried on a hilltop in
upstate New York. The resulting text (which Mark Twain derided as ''chloroform
in print'') placed the United States at the center of Christian history.

Having published a sequel to the Bible at age 25, a less ambitious man
might have called it a career. But Smith, driven by optimism and egotism,
fancied himself a monarch of a godly kingdom on earth. At the time, such
aspirations were hardly unusual. Millenially minded zealots -- from such fiery
evangelists as Charles Grandison Finney to utopian communities of the Shakers,
who believed practicing celibacy would speed Christ's return -- abounded. How,
in such a tolerant religious climate, did the Mormons become a target of
national scrutiny?

Bushman offers a multistoried answer that hinges as much on the
complexities of Smith's character as the 19th century cultural backdrop.
Unlike his fellow evangelists, Smith's goals were unabashedly political as
well as religious, prompting critics to accuse him of power-grabbing, treason
and sedition as well as financial and sexual impropriety. Smith cast himself
as mayor of Nauvoo, Ill., the chief magistrate of its court, a city planner,
'commander-in-chief of the armies of Israel,' and at one point, a candidate
for president. He wasn't always successful. In the late 1830s, war broke out
between the Mormons and the citizens of Missouri, forcing the Mormons to
retreat to Illinois.

Bushman guesses Smith practiced polygamy as early as 1835. He married
some 30 women between 1841 and 1844, including several who were already
married. Taking other men's wives proved damaging to Smith's claim on his
churchmen's loyalty, and soon, Mormons were rankled by infighting as well as
the outside threat of angry citizen militias. Smith escaped arrest several
times, but died on June 27, 1844, at the hands of an angry mob that broke into
a Carthage jail and shot him four times. He was awaiting trial for old charges
of sedition.

Smith warned his followers not to expect perfection of him, and Bushman
all but does the same with his readers. He quotes Smith's own attempt at
autobiography as haiku: ``I [am] a rough stone. The sound of the hammer and
chisel was never heard on me nor will be. I desire the learning and wisdom of
heaven alone.''

Perhaps Bushman thought it blasphemous to sculpt a definitive character
out of historical shards. He leaves the reader to judge the ambiguous and
shifty figure that emerges, piecemeal, in this biography. Or perhaps this was
as close to truth that Bushman, a meticulous historian and a believer, could

Alexandra Alter is The Herald's religion writer.

Journal of Mormon History (vol. 31, Spring 2005)

Journal of Mormon History
(vol. 31, Spring 2005) =09=09


Creating the Sacred Space of Zion
Martha Sonntag Bradley


The Kinderhook Plates, The Tucson Artifacts, and Mormon Archeological Zeal
J. Michale Hunter

Desert Imagery and Sacred Symbolism: The Design of the Arizona Temple
Paul L. Anderson

The Historic Arizona Temple
Richard Cowan

Eliza R. Snow and the Prophet's Gold Watch: Time Keeper as Relic
Jennifer Reeder

A Turbulent Coexistence: Duane Hunt, David O. McKay, And a
Quarter-Century of Catholic-Mormon Relations
Gregory A. Price and Gary Topping


Russell M. Nelson: Father, Surgeon Apostle by Spencer J. Condie,
Samuel Brown

Four Zinas: A Story of Mothers and Daughters on the Mormon Frontier by
Martha Sonntag Bradley and Mary Brown Firmage Woodward
Linda King Newell

Losing a Lost Trive: Native Americans, DNA and the Mormon Church by
Simon G. Southerton,
Armand L. Mauss

Latter Days: A Guided tour Through Six Billion Years of Mormonism by
Coke Newell,
Laura Compton

The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator
Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle by Kathleen Flake,
Thomas G. Alexander

Stand by My Servant Joseph: The Story of the Joseph Knight Family and
the Restoration
by William G. Hartley
Steven C. Harper

Rhodakanaty y la formaci=F3n del Pensamiento Socialista en M=E9xico
byCarlos Illades,
Dale Beecher

Transformation of the Mormon Culture Region edited by Ethan R. Yorgason,
Armand L. Mauss

Mormon Wards as Community, by Jessi L. Embry,
Douglas D. Alder

Following the Wrong God Home by Clive Scott Chisholm,
Paul M. Edwards

An Introduction to Mormonims by Douglas J. Davies,
Val Hemming

Healing Souls: Psychotherapy in the Latter-day Saint Community by Eric
G. Swedin,
Bron Ingoldsby

A Widow's Tale: The 1884-1896 Diary of Helen Mar Kimball Whitney by Coke Ne=
Laura Compton

Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet by Dan Vogel,
William D. Morain

Gathering in Harmony: A Saga of Southern Utah Families, Their Roots
and Pioneering Heratage, and the Tale of Antone Prince, Sheriff of
Washington County by Stephen L. Prince,
Craig L. Foster

Desert Patriarchy: Mormon and Mennonite Communities in the Chihuahua
Valley by Janet Bennion,
Brian C. Hales

Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint Church History: New York and
Pennsylvania edited by Alexander L. Baugh and Andrew H. Hedges,,
H. Michael Marquardt

A Trial Furnace: Southern Utah's Iron Mission by Morris A Shirts and
Kathryn H. Shirts,
Wayne K. Hinton

What the new missionary discussions imply

New developments in missionary teaching offer a window into
farther-reaching developments
in Church discourse and administration. They serve as a starting point
for identifying
ongoing trends in the Church's attempt to define "the gospel" and
manage diversity.

By John-Charles Duffy

read the article here

"Mormon Thought, 1850 to 1920: Dealing with the Joseph Smith Legacy"
Brigham Young University

June 19-July 28, 2006

In the summer of 2006, Brigham Young University will sponsor a summer
seminar for graduate students and advanced undergraduates on the theme
of "Mormon
Thought, 1850 to 1920: Dealing with the Joseph Smith Legacy." The
seminar will be
held on the BYU campus in Provo, Utah, from June 19 to July 28.
Admitted participants
will receive a stipend of $3000 with accommodations provided if
needed. The seminar
continues the series of seminars on Joseph Smith begun in the summer of 199=
The seminar will be conducted by Richard Bushman, Professor of History,
Emeritus at Columbia University and Terryl Givens, Professor of
Literature and Religion
at the University of Richmond.

The aim of the seminar will be to map the contours of Mormon thought in the
seven decades following the death of Joseph Smith. During this period
Mormon thinkers
worked out the implications of the founding prophet's intellectual
legacy while reacting
to the shifting currents of American thought. Each participant will be
asked to prepare a
paper for presentation in a public symposium in the final week.

Applications are welcomed from students of history, literature, anthropolog=
sociology, religious studies, philosophy and other humanistic and
social scientific fields.
Preference will be given to those with a knowledge of Latter-day Saint
history and
experience in analyzing texts. Advanced undergraduates and graduate
students at any
level of preparation are eligible.

Applications should be submitted by February 15, 2006. Notifications
will be sent
by March 15, 2006. For application materials, write to the Foundation
for Ancient
Research and Mormon Studies by surface or email.

Summer Seminar on Joseph Smith
Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies
551 East 870 North
Provo, Utah 84602 phone: (801) 422 1525 fax: (801) 422 0040

A House for the Most High: The Story of the Original Nauvoo Temple

Coming from Kofford Book:

A House for the Most High: The Story of the Original Nauvoo Temple
By Matt McBride

This informative book will chronologically document the
behind-the-scenes stories of the common people involved in the
sacrifice to erect the second Mormon temple. First hand accounts are
drawn from diaries, journals, and letters.
The prologue of this book discusses briefly the early temple building
efforts of the fledgling Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
the development of temple-related doctrines during the decade prior to
the Nauvoo era, and the arrival of the Saints in Illinois in 1839. The
body of the history covers the years 1840, when the temple was first
contemplated, to 1850, when its walls were toppled by a hurricane. An
epilogue completes the story by recounting the story of the repurchase
of the temple lot by the Church in 1937, the lot's excavation in 1962,
and the announcement that the temple would be rebuilt. Also included
is an appendix containing important eyewitness descriptions of the
temple, and a bibliography of major sources.

Big Love

Latter-day Saint/Mormon Characters
in the HBO series:
Big Love (2005)

"Big Love" (2005)
Pilot episode (series premiere) written by Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer
Pilot episode directed by Rodrigo Garc=EDa
Executive producer: Tom Hanks

Starring: Bill Paxton, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chlo=EB Sevigny (Chloe
Sevigny), Ginnifer Goodwin, Harry Dean Stanton, Amanda Seyfried,
Daveigh Chase, Garrett Gray, Mitchell Gray, Spencer Gray, Douglas

"Big Love" is an HBO series created by Mark V. Olsen and gay
screenwriter Will Scheffer. The series premiere was directed by
Rodrigo Garcia ("Six Feet Under", "Boomtown","Nine Lives"). When
production on "Big Love" was announced it generated considerable news
coverage, partially because the series was to be produced by superstar
Tom Hanks' production company, with Hanks as executive producer.

The "Big Love" series is about a business owner in Salt Lake City
(played by Bill Paxton) and his three wives. Paxton's character is a
polygamist, whose unorthodox lifestyle is based on his background as
what is sometimes known by the misnomer "fundamentalist Mormon."

HBO originally ordered 11 episodes of "Big Love" produced. Amanda
Seyfried was cast as "Sarah Henrickson," a teenage daughter of Bill
Paxton's character. Some of the audition sides for this part are shown
below. Cast as Paxton's three wives (all major roles in the series)
were Chloe Sevigny, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Ginnifer Goodwin. Other
actors cast for "Big Love" were Harry Dean Stanton, Daveigh Chase,
Garrett Gray, Mitchell Gray, Spencer Gray and Douglas Smith.

The series premiered in August 2005.

Executive producer Tom Hanks was himself a Mormon for less than two
years when he was a child, but he was part of the mainstream Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and was not a "fundamentalist
Mormon" or part of polygamist culture. Hanks' frequently-disrupted
family life put him in a number of different denominations while
growing up. In high school, Tom Hanks joined a Fundamentalist
Christian (Protestant) denomination, but did not remain active in it
into his twenties. When Hanks married Rita Wilson, he joined her
denomination: the Greek Orthodox Church. It is not known whether
Hanks' background provided any impetus for his deciding to produce
"Big Love."

Although "Big Love" is ostensibly about polygamy, much of its subject
matter and themes are actually a veneer for presenting the non-LDS
writers' GLBT themes and gay apologia.

The Biblical practice of polygamy was banned by the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints in the late 1800s, and anybody who
attempts to practice polgamy is not allowed to be part of the Church.
Wary of stirring up negative controversy, and wishing to avoid
accusations of anachronistic or dishonest storytelling, HBO publicists
issued statements that "Big Love" was not about Latter-day Saints and
would not be filmed in Utah.

However, excerpts from the teleplay for the pilot episode of the
series make it clear that at least some of the characters in "Big
Love" are written as mainstream Latter-day Saints. Series star Chloe
Sevigny told reporters that the show's producers intended to film in
Utah. In the excerpt below, some characters are members of the
mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They discuss
Church-related topics with a daughter of the central polygamist
character. This girl has clearly spent time in the mainstream Church,
although her family is apparently now separated from the Church.

The teleplay excerpts contain two cheers or chants spoken by a teenage
Latter-day Saint girl named "Jordan." (Jordan is not from a
polygammist group; she is a member of mainstream Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints.) Jordan's chants would strike most
Latter-day Saints as strange, and might even seem like yet another
indicator that the script writers were out of touch and were
inaccurate in their portrayal of Latter-day Saints.

Yet these chants were actually copied directly from a fireside outline
written by a regular Latter-day Saint Young Women's leader. The
fireside outline was not published by the official Church, but it was
posted on an independent website dedicated to providing supplemental
materials for Young Women leaders. (The "Young Women" organization in
the Church is for female Church members ages 12 through 18.)

On the "YW Connection" website (, there is a
Young Women Camp section
( On the index page
for the Young Women Camp section there is section with the heading
"Camp Themes." Some of the themes in this section include: Everyway
Heroes; Heroes of the Heart; Hold Your Torch High; Field of Dream;
Like A Lighthouse; Millennial Bugs; Mission Possible; Olympics; On
Safari, Searching For Heaven; We Three Queen; Quest for the Best;
Shoot For the Stars; To Know Ewe is to Love Ewe; Unity in the Hive;
United We Stand.

One of the Young Women Camp themes is "Major Leagues." It is a
baseball theme, and the page describing it
( features a
detailed outline of a fireside, complete with some camp cheers.

One of the cheers from this Young Women camp fireside touches on the
Word of Wisdom:

Drugs are an abomination.
We're the Mormon congregation.
That should be an indication,
Heaven is our destination!

Note how this cheer is repeated in the "Big Love" script:

(deadpan, understated)
"We're the Mormon Congregation.
That should be an indication.
Heaven is our destination. Yeah."

Another cheer used during the "Major Leagues" camp fireside is about
the law of chastity (moral purity):

We can wait! We can wait! We can wait to procreate
'Til aaaaaaaaaaafter marriage!

This cheer was also repeated in the "Big Love" script:

(the same throwaway irony)
We can wait. We can wait. We can
wait to procreate. Till
aaaaffffffter marriage. Yeah.

Mormon male privilege in classroom

'Mormon male' privilege in classroom
Diversity forum allowed students opportunity to question LDS professors about bias

By Blair Dee Hodges | news editor
October 10, 2005

Although 62.4 percent of Utahns are Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints members, organizers were still surprised Friday at the large crowd in a forum titled, "Is being male and Mormon a privilege in the Weber State University classroom?"

The Diversity Conference forum changed venues from a smaller room in the Shepherd Union Building to the larger Ballroom B, where approximately 200 students gathered. This forum was one of 12 scheduled for the conference.

Before beginning, Rebecca Johns, session moderator and WSU Department of Communication assistant professor, reminded the audience this was meant to be a "friendly and civil, welcoming, inviting place."

Johns, a self-described "feminist Mormon," said she organized the forum so students could ask panel members questions about the LDS church in the classroom. She said she felt a small division between LDS and non-LDS faculty members during her time at WSU.

"That can happen anytime you have a minority/majority kind of population," Johns said.

She said she believed a forum discussing the issue would be beneficial to faculty and students.

The panel was composed of Edward Walker, WSU Department of Chemistry professor; Robert Hogge, WSU Department of English professor; and Howard Noel, WSU Department of Communication instructor. All were male members of the LDS church.

Johns said she felt the LDS culture of "obedience to authority" trickled into the classroom, where some students seem to accept what their professors say without question.

"My students, just because I am the teacher, believe everything I say," Johns said. "I want them to be critical thinkers, to question what I have to say. Sometimes I say the most ridiculous things in class just to see if they will respond in any way, and most of the time, they do not."

Hogge said he believed this effect is not prevalent in classrooms where lessons are student-centered, rather than teacher-centered.

During the question-and-answer session, one student mentioned the difficulty she had in transferring credits to WSU from the LDS Business College in Salt Lake City.

"One department in particular basically said, 'We don't like taking credits from a church school,'" she said.

Hogge said discrimination at WSU "cuts in both directions," and that, as other students mentioned, privilege is a double-edged sword.

One student thought the selection of panel members was ironic.

"I do think it's strange that we're having three white male LDS guys on the panel at the Diversity Conference," the student said.

You can reach reporter Blair Dee Hodges by calling 626-7655.

Fwd: Newsweek on Mormons

You may want to stop by the new stand and pick up a copy of Newsweek.  This week's issue is on the church and Joseph Smith.

Fwd: Rescuing Jesus from his hijackers

Rescuing Jesus

Bush & Co. have hijacked Jesus, using him as the poster child for their callous worldview. It's time to rescue Christ from his kidnappers.

By Alessandro Camon

Oct. 07, 2005 | Harriet Miers, should she be confirmed to the Supreme Court, will be the resident evangelical Christian. She shares her religious background with George W. Bush, whose claim to have chosen her based on "knowing her heart" has as much to do with the born-again faith he shares with her as with her long service in his inner circle. This choice might have left secular conservatives perplexed or downright dissatisfied, but is an obvious crowd-pleaser with the Christian right. Above all, it reflects the importance of Christianity for Bush, widely described as the most devout president in history.

But as we brace for more battles over abortion rights, gay marriage, stem cell research and so forth, it's time for ask just how Christian the supposedly pious Bush administration really is. Because what happened in New Orleans, and what has been happening in Iraq, raises serious questions about whether Bush & Co. deserve to be called Christian at all.

Natural disasters are often labeled "acts of God." Those who take the expression literally may think that God is punishing our sins (a belief shared by some Christians with those Muslims who think Katrina is Allah's reprisal), or they may struggle to reconcile the idea of an infinitely good God with the devastation he brings upon us. But you don't have to take the expression literally to feel that natural disasters call into question the meaning of life. They cut us down to size, and challenge us to rise up again. They make us mourn for the dead and reach out for the survivors. If we do believe in God, even just a little bit, they are a true test of our faith, and an opportunity to do what we preach: to give, to comfort, to assist.

Wars are acts of man, yet all too often are fought for a "holy" cause, painted as deeds of "infinite justice" or "crusades" of good vs. evil. But it's when we look at the victims that faith is truly tested. A religious person will have the chance to show all his horror, regret, compassion, forgiveness. In war, many parents will lose their children, a sacrifice so profound that it is more than a human being can be expected to bear; a sacrifice that is, in fact, made by God -- the Christian one -- and proof of godliness. (In one of the harshest and most controversial biblical tales, Abraham is ready to sacrifice his son before God, as he believes God asked him to do, but God stops him before he goes through with it. However one wants to interpret the tale -- whether it's about obedience or misunderstanding -- the point is, God doesn't actually want to impose on a parent the loss of a child.) To those who suffer such a loss, we have a chance -- and an obligation -- to offer utmost solidarity.

The administration's lethargic and callous response to the call after Hurricane Katrina, just like the president's coldheartedness toward Cindy Sheehan, suggests that the people who govern us are as willing to invoke Jesus as their guide, their inspiration, even their "favorite philosopher," as they are firmly unwilling to behave anything like Jesus.

"What would Jesus do?" has been a favorite slogan of the Christian right. It's a rhetorical question, meant to display lofty concerns and stake the high ground. It's not meant to be answered; in fact it's usually not even asked in relation to the things Jesus cared about.

It's time to put that question to better use.

Should a nation rush into an unprovoked war whose justification is weak at best, and fraudulent at worst? What would Jesus do?

A mother mourning the death of her son in that war asks for a chance to speak to the president about her grief, and to have her questions answered. What would Jesus do?

Thousands of men, women and children are left behind in the flood with no food, drinkable water or medical aid. What would Jesus do?

Would Jesus rush to war, or neglect to interrupt his vacation to meet the mother of a dead soldier, or abandon the people of a ravaged city? Would he promote tax breaks for the rich, undercut education, support the death penalty?

The answers are painfully easy. We know what Jesus would do, because he did do it, or talked about it in no uncertain terms. Jesus was for peace, for the poor, for the afflicted, for the children, and against the death penalty -- of which he was a victim. Anybody who denies this, or who argues that it's possible to be a good Christian without adhering to these basic positions, is basically betraying Christ.

We could ask some harder questions. Would Jesus really frown upon homosexuality? Would he seek to prolong life at all cost, even when in the form of a persistent vegetative state? Here many believe the answers are in the affirmative, or at least much more uncertain. But homosexuality existed in Jesus' times. And what Jesus had to say about it was, in one word, nothing. Unlike poverty, it just wasn't a concern. As far as pulling the plug, being a Christian means to believe that life doesn't end with the physical death of this body, on this earth. That's when a far better, everlasting life begins. (The one legitimately complex issue is abortion, and one can see a case for Jesus being generally against it; still, it is not something he directly spoke about.)

The American Christian right has hijacked Jesus Christ. It has made him into a brand, a logo, a bumper sticker. It celebrates his suffering on the cross, but largely neglects what he had to say. It prefers an Old Testament God, a "Jealous God, visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children." It elevates success to proof of God's favor, and washes its hands of responsibility for the poor. It combines a self-righteous vision of Americans as the chosen people with shrill intimations of imminent apocalypse, to justify indifference to the rest of the world and to the planet itself. It sticks to the letter of the Bible with arbitrary selectiveness, so that it can endorse creationism and condemn homosexuality while acknowledging that (contrary to Old Testament wisdom) the earth is in fact round, and slavery is not OK.

It's a twisted, schizophrenic form of religion that mirrors the most reactionary form of Islam. (Not by chance, both the Christian right and conservative Muslims are at odds with women's rights, and fiercely homophobic.)

A lot can be said about the theological fallacies and over-simplifications of the Christian right. Take the way it reads the Commandments. What, for example, does "not to take the Lord's name in vain" mean? Is it a prohibition against using the word "God" in casual conversation? Or does it forbid Christians from going to war in the name of God? And what about "love thy neighbor"? Does it refer to the guy next door, who shares our tax bracket? Or is it about all of our fellow humans, whether similar or different? In fact, is it not an exhortation to love precisely those who are different?

Most important, though, is how Christians actually relate to Christ.

Jesus was a poor man. He started a movement of the poor, for the poor. This isn't socialist revisionism: This is what the Gospels say. Jesus defied authority, and spread a message of hope, tolerance, inclusion.

He said:

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal ... For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

He also said:

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.


You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, do not resist one who is evil. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also."

And of course, he said:

I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. (...) Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brothers, you did it to me.

Does this sound like the voice inspiring this administration? Or the voice they go out of their way to ignore?

Last month, President Bush said that Hurricane Katrina exposed the problem of persistent poverty in this country. But why did the problem need to be exposed in order to warrant his concern? Was the president not aware of it before? And what about poverty in the rest of the world -- a problem that the Bush administration stubbornly refuses to make a priority, which in fact its policies greatly exacerbate?

To hold a president (or a justice) up to such a high standard as the teachings of Jesus would be unfair, if it weren't the president himself who claimed to act in Jesus' name. It's time for Bush, the Republican Party and the Christian right to be confronted with their failings as Christians. If there is a worthy measure of anybody's religious commitment, it has to be how it's expressed in action. It's not how you talk the talk that makes you a true Christian. It's the deeds you do -- and those you don't.

Liberals have let the right claim Jesus for themselves. But the legacy of Christ is far too precious to be left in the hands of the hypocrites who use it to justify war, bigotry and injustice. It is time to reclaim Jesus -- not to start another religious party, but to free him from the one that's hogging him as their poster child. It's time not just to ask "what would Jesus do?" but to actually listen to the answer.

It's about poverty. It's about peace. No true Christian can have anything more important in mind.

-- By Alessandro Camon




Fwd: Bush: God told him to invade Iraq, Afghanistan

Bush said God told him to invade Iraq, Arab leaders say
Palestinian officials confirm comments from documentary
- Matthew Kalman, Chronicle Foreign Service
Friday, October 7, 2005

Jerusalem -- President Bush told two high-ranking Palestinian officials that he had been told by God to invade Afghanistan and Iraq and then create a Palestinian state to bring peace to the Middle East, they recall during a documentary on Middle East peace that airs next week in Britain.

"President Bush said to all of us: 'I'm driven with a mission from God,' " said Nabil Shaath, who was the Palestinian foreign minister at the time of a top-level meeting with Bush in June 2003. Mahmoud Abbas, then Palestinian prime minister and now the Palestinian Authority president, was also present for the conversation with Bush.

"God would tell me, 'George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.' And I did, and then God would tell me, 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq ...' And I did. And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, 'Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East.' And by God I'm gonna do it," Shaath quotes the president as saying in the three-part series.

(White House press secretary Scott McClellan denied the report at his press briefing Thursday. "No, that's absurd. He's never made such comments," he said.

(McClellan said he was not personally in that meeting, but that he had been at similar meetings with world leaders when Bush talked about the reasons for his Mideast decisions.)

Shaath, who is now Palestinian minister of information, said he was encouraged, not dismayed, by the president's comments.

"President Bush was saying that, 'Having been imbued with a message of God to free the people of Afghanistan and then Iraq, I have a calling now to give the Palestinians a state of their own and their freedom, to give Israel security and bring peace to the Middle East,' " Shaath told The Chronicle, confirming the accuracy of the BBC report.

But Shaath said the Palestinians at the meeting did not think the president was suggesting that God actually spoke to him. "I think it's a manner of speech," Shaath said. "I don't think he meant an actual call from God. He was talking about a commitment. The man wasn't saying there was an angel hovering over his head talking to him.

"We took it as a commitment of the highest level by Mr. Bush to really invest his effort and his determination to get an independent Palestinian state. We welcome this commitment by the president and hope he will fulfill it."

It wasn't the first time Bush used the symbolism of his Christian beliefs to describe the U.S. role on the international stage. U.S. foreign policy is still paying for Bush's post-Sept. 11 description of the U.S. war on terror as a crusade, a term that reminded many people in the Middle East of the medieval Christian crusades in which European warriors trying to wrest Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Islamic rule killed untold thousands of Muslims.

"One of the biggest problems the Bush administration has is the translation of American Christian culture to the world, and specifically to Muslim countries," said commentator Micah D. Halpern, author of "What You Need to Know About: Terror."

"It's not that these societies are foreign to Christians, it's just that the Christianity that Bush embraces is not the Christianity that these Muslim countries see at home," Halpern said. "In that mistranslation, his message is ballooned out of proportion. One of America's biggest diplomatic mistakes is their lack of understanding of local Muslim and Arab cultures abroad. You can't just throw out the word God and assume that everyone's on the same page."

When Condoleezza Rice arrived in the West Bank last June for her first visit as secretary of state, Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahar went on Palestinian television to accuse Bush of launching a wave of crusades that had already claimed the lives of 70,000 Islamic martyrs.

"This is a new ... war of crusades that Bush is leading," said Al-Zahar, interspersing the English word crusade with the Arabic equivalent "hamla salibiyya." In 2001, Pentagon officials junked the name "Operation Infinite Justice" for the war on terror after realizing it could upset Muslims' belief that only God can dispense "infinite justice."

Although U.S. officials have tried to play down the war on terror as a clash of civilizations or a war of Christians against Muslims, the imagery of the United States as the reincarnation of those medieval warriors has taken hold.

Osama bin Laden's videotaped speeches are laced with references to crusaders and infidels, designed to stoke religious sensitivities.

Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Abd Al-Latif, a professor at Um Al-Qura University in Saudi Arabia, told viewers on Saudi Channel TV1 last year that the U.S.-led wars to oust the leaders of Afghanistan and Iraq was evidence of the Christians' "cruel aggression against Islamic countries."

"This is a crusading war whose goal is to harm Muslims," he said.

Page A - 12




Fwd: Catholic Church no longer swears by the truth of the Bible 2C13509-1811332%2C00.html

Catholic Church no longer swears by truth of the Bible
By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

THE hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has published a teaching
document instructing the faithful that some parts of the Bible are
not actually true.

The Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland are warning
their five million worshippers, as well as any others drawn to the
study of scripture, that they should not expect "total accuracy"
from the Bible.

"We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy
or complete historical precision," they say in The Gift of

The document is timely, coming as it does amid the rise of the
religious Right, in particular in the US.

Some Christians want a literal interpretation of the story of
creation, as told in Genesis, taught alongside Darwin's theory of
evolution in schools, believing "intelligent design" to be an
equally plausible theory of how the world began.

But the first 11 chapters of Genesis, in which two different and at
times conflicting stories of creation are told, are among those that
this country's Catholic bishops insist cannot be "historical". At
most, they say, they may contain "historical traces".

The document shows how far the Catholic Church has come since the
17th century, when Galileo was condemned as a heretic for flouting a
near-universal belief in the divine inspiration of the Bible by
advocating the Copernican view of the solar system. Only a century
ago, Pope Pius X condemned Modernist Catholic scholars who adapted
historical-critical methods of analysing ancient literature to the

In the document, the bishops acknowledge their debt to biblical
scholars. They say the Bible must be approached in the knowledge
that it is "God's word expressed in human language" and that proper
acknowledgement should be given both to the word of God and its
human dimensions.

They say the Church must offer the gospel in ways "appropriate to
changing times, intelligible and attractive to our contemporaries".

The Bible is true in passages relating to human salvation, they say,
but continue: "We should not expect total accuracy from the Bible in
other, secular matters."

They go on to condemn fundamentalism for its "intransigent
intolerance" and to warn of "significant dangers" involved in a
fundamentalist approach.

"Such an approach is dangerous, for example, when people of one
nation or group see in the Bible a mandate for their own
superiority, and even consider themselves permitted by the Bible to
use violence against others."

Of the notorious anti-Jewish curse in Matthew 27:25, "His blood be
on us and on our children", a passage used to justify centuries of
anti-Semitism, the bishops say these and other words must never be
used again as a pretext to treat Jewish people with contempt.
Describing this passage as an example of dramatic exaggeration, the
bishops say they have had "tragic consequences" in encouraging
hatred and persecution. "The attitudes and language of first-century
quarrels between Jews and Jewish Christians should never again be
emulated in relations between Jews and Christians."

As examples of passages not to be taken literally, the bishops cite
the early chapters of Genesis, comparing them with early creation
legends from other cultures, especially from the ancient East. The
bishops say it is clear that the primary purpose of these chapters
was to provide religious teaching and that they could not be
described as historical writing.

Similarly, they refute the apocalyptic prophecies of Revelation, the
last book of the Christian Bible, in which the writer describes the
work of the risen Jesus, the death of the Beast and the wedding
feast of Christ the Lamb.

The bishops say: "Such symbolic language must be respected for what
it is, and is not to be interpreted literally. We should not expect
to discover in this book details about the end of the world, about
how many will be saved and about when the end will come."

In their foreword to the teaching document, the two most senior
Catholics of the land, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop
of Westminster, and Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Archbishop of St
Andrew's and Edinburgh, explain its context.

They say people today are searching for what is worthwhile, what has
real value, what can be trusted and what is really true.

The new teaching has been issued as part of the 40th anniversary
celebrations of Dei Verbum, the Second Vatican Council document
explaining the place of Scripture in revelation. In the past 40
years, Catholics have learnt more than ever before to cherish the
Bible. "We have rediscovered the Bible as a precious treasure, both
ancient and ever new."

A Christian charity is sending a film about the Christmas story to
every primary school in Britain after hearing of a young boy who
asked his teacher why Mary and Joseph had named their baby after a
swear word. The Breakout Trust raised £200,000 to make the 30-minute
animated film, It's a Boy. Steve Legg, head of the charity,
said: "There are over 12 million children in the UK and only 756,000
of them go to church regularly.

That leaves a staggering number who are probably not receiving basic
Christian teaching."

Rough Rolling Stone

'Warts and all' in Smith biography

By Dennis Lythgoe
Deseret Morning News
      Like any historian worth his salt, Richard Bushman was determined early on to write about Joseph Smith's life "warts and all."
Richard Bushman
      "I didn't want to cover up anything," he said by phone from his New York apartment. "I purposely sought to deal with all the problems, trying always to see things as Joseph saw them. I wanted to be empathetic, because that's what readers want."
      Bushman's historical philosophy was strictly applied to "Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling" (Knopf, 730 pages, $35), his work on the Mormon prophet. "I wanted to write a book in which Joseph could recognize himself.
      "I once told a graduate student that I do it this way because I might meet this person in the afterlife. You have to write the book thinking the subject is in the room."
      In fact, Bushman has written what is likely to be considered the definitive biography of Joseph Smith for many years to come.
      "I liked the rolling part — a man in motion," Bushman said. "I also liked the rough stone. He knew he was rough and didn't pretend otherwise. I once wrote a book on gentility ('The Refinement of America'), and Joseph saw the artificiality of gentility. He didn't like Martin Van Buren (the U.S. president in the 1830s) because he was prissy and Joseph was rugged, and he felt more authentic."
      Will the book be the definitive study of Smith? "It was the best I could do in the time I had — seven years. But I could have worked on the prose forever. By the time it was done, it didn't sound bad to me. I thought it was pretty much OK. My biggest reservations are that there are depths of Joseph Smith's thought I just could not reach. I hope the book works for at least one generation."
      Bushman, who is himself a practicing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said he tried not to be "nervous in the writing.
      "I don't try to rationalize polygamy or explain it. I just come at it head-on. I hope I give people courage to say that this is something we did — and God commanded it. And we don't do it anymore."
      When asked about the balance of his work, Bushman said, "I'm not sure I want 'Joseph Smith' to be balanced. Prophets have a right to be wild. I want him to be a sculpted figure with distinctive qualities of his own.
      "We are so sold on the genteel, noble kind of prophet that we forget about the Old Testament prophets. I take Joseph and I love the warts. None of his flaws stopped him from getting the job done. He was tremendously effective."
      Whatever readers or critics think of his book, Bushman remains respectful of older Smith biographies, even Fawn Brodie's controversial "No Man Knows My History," which Bushman considers "a classic, a fabulous piece of journalism. No one will ever match the zing in her writing. Brodie will always be useful in studying Joseph.
      "My book is more sympathetic to Joseph than Brodie's was. She thought in her heart of hearts that he was a fraud. I think he was sincere, and she didn't."
      It is evident that Bushman feels an affinity toward his subject. "Joseph was warm, affectionate and intensely loyal to his family. I think it's remarkable that he remained that way considering his father's failings, but he never wavered."
      Because Joseph Smith initiated plural marriage, Emma, the love of his youth, was very unhappy about it. But Bushman believes that he always had a unique relationship with Emma. In his letters to her, he invariably spoke of their "friendship" continuing forever.
      "Friendship was a very powerful word then," said Bushman. "It meant affection, but it also indicated candor and openness. You speak your heart to your friend. I think Emma was the most influential person in his life. That's why plural marriage was so excruciating for him. It ripped him apart and it came close to breaking up their marriage. But when he was killed, she took a lock of his hair and kept his portrait up in the living room. She always believed the Book of Mormon was inspired and she never gave him up as her love."
      Bushman is especially impressed with Smith's determination to acquire knowledge. "Joseph's interest in knowledge is inexplicable. His parents had no ambitions to see their kids in the professions, such as law or the ministry. What is remarkable about Joseph is that he believed knowledge was part of salvation. He thought you could grow in intelligence. He was inspired to translate but he also wanted to learn Hebrew from a professor of Hebrew."
      It is the famed King Follett discourse, a funeral sermon, that stands out for Bushman as a crucial element of Joseph's teachings. "That sermon pulled together the doctrines only hinted at in other sources — the eternity of intelligences, the creations of worlds, preparing people to become like God. There are four different accounts of the King Follett discourse, written in great detail. That means that people in the congregation knew something important was happening, and some of them wrote down the details."
      Bushman was "frankly amazed" at the way ideas came to him during his research and writing. "In my mind I saw the image of a man sitting around a fire, and occasionally figures would come from the dark into the firelight. That was fun when I got to the bedrock stage, trying to figure out what it all meant."

If you go ...

      What: Richard Bushman, book signing
      Where: Deseret Book, ZCMI Center
      When: Today, noon-2 p.m.; Thursday, Oct. 27, noon-2 p.m.
      How Much: Free
      Phone: 534-1515

Friday, September 29, 2006

Oldest American Script Discovered

Published: September 14, 2006

A stone slab found in the state of Veracruz in Mexico bears 3,000-year-old writing previously unknown to scholars, according to archaeologists who say it is an example of the oldest script ever discovered in the Western Hemisphere.

Courtesy of Stephen Houston

Sixty-two distinct signs are inscribed on the stone slab, which was discovered in the state of Veracruz in Mexico.

The order and pattern of carved symbols appeared to be that of a true writing system, according to the Mexican scientists who have studied the slab and colleagues from the United States. It had characteristics strikingly similar to imagery of the Olmec civilization, considered the earliest in pre-Columbian America, they said.

Finding a heretofore-unknown writing system is a rare event. One of the last such discoveries, scholars say, was the Indus Valley script, identified by archaeologists in 1924.

The inscription on the stone slab, with 62 distinct signs, some of them repeated, has been tentatively dated to at least 900 B.C., and possibly earlier. That is 400 years or more before writing had been known to exist in Mesoamerica, the region from central Mexico through much of Central America — and by extension, to exist anywhere in the Hemisphere.

Scientists had not previously found any script that was unambiguously associated with the Olmec culture, which flourished along the Gulf of Mexico in Vera Cruz and Tobasco well before the Zapotec and Maya people rose to prominence elsewhere in the region. Until now, the Olmec were known mainly for the colossal stone heads they created and displayed at monumental buildings in their ruling cities.

The inscribed stone slab was discovered by Maria del Carmen Rodriguez of the National Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico and by Ponciano Ortiz of Veracruz University. The archaeologists, who are husband and wife, are the lead authors of the report of the find, which will be published Friday in the journal Science.

The signs incised on the 26-pound stone, the researchers said in the report, "link the Olmec to literacy, document an unsuspected writing system and reveal a new complexity to this civilization."

Noting that the text "conforms to all expectations of writing," the researchers wrote that the sequences of signs reflected "patterns of language, with the probable presence of syntax and language-dependant word orders." Several paired sequences of signs, scholars said, have prompted speculation that the text may contain couplets of poetry.

Experts who have examined the symbols on the stone slab said they would need many more examples before they could hope to decipher them and read what is written. It appeared, they said, that the symbols in the inscription were unrelated to later Mesoamerican scripts, suggesting that this Olmec writing might have been practiced for only a few generations and may never have spread to surrounding cultures.

Stephen D. Houston of Brown University, a co-author of the report and an authority on ancient writing systems, acknowledged that this was a puzzle, and would probably be emphasized by some scholars who question the influence of the Olmec on the course of later Mesoamerican cultures.

But Dr. Houston called the discovery tantalizing, saying, "It could be the beginning of a new era of focus on the Olmec civilization."

Other participants in the research include Michael D. Coe of Yale; Karl A. Taube of the University of California , Riverside; and Alfredo Delgado Calderon of the National Institute of Anthropology and History.

Mesoamerica researchers who were not involved in the Veracruz discovery agreed that the signs appeared to be a true script, and that the slab could be expected to inspire more intensive study of the Olmecs, whose civilization emerged about 1200 B. C. and had all but disappeared by 400 B. C.

In an accompanying article in Science, Mary Pohl, an anthropologist at Florida State University who has excavated Olmec ruins, was quoted as saying, "This is an exciting discovery of great significance."

A few other researchers were skeptical of the dating of the inscription, noting that the stone was uncovered in a gravel quarry where it and other artifacts were jumbled and may have been out of their original context.

The discovery team said that ceramic shards, clay figurines and other broken artifacts accompanying the stone appeared to be from a particular phase of Olmec culture that ended about 900 B. C. But they acknowledged that the disarray at the site made it impossible to determine whether the stone had originally been in a place relating to the governing elite or to religious ceremony.

Richard A. Diehl, a specialist in Olmec research at the University of Alabama and another co-author of the report, said, "My colleagues and I are absolutely convinced the stone is authentic."

The stone slab first came to light in 1999, when road builders digging gravel came across it among debris from an ancient mound at Cascajal, a place the archaeologists called the "Olmec heartland." The village is on an island in southern Veracruz about a mile from San Lorenzo, where ruins have been found of the dominant Olmec city, which stood from 1200 B. C. to 900 B. C.

When the stone surfaced, Dr. Rodriguez and Dr. Ortiz were called in, and quickly recognized the potential importance of the find.

Only after six years of further excavations searching for more writing specimens, and comparative analysis with previously known Olmec iconography, did the two archaeologists invite other Mesoamerica scholars to join the study earlier this year. Though some other reported examples of Olmec "writing" in recent years failed to stand up to scrutiny, the team concluded that the Cascajal stone, as it is being called, was the real thing.

The tiny, delicate symbols are incised on the concave top surface of a block of soft stone that measures about 14 inches long, 8 inches wide and 5 inches thick.

Dr. Houston, who was a leader in deciphering Maya writing, examined the stone looking for clues that the symbols were true writing and not just iconography unrelated to a language. He said in an interview that he detected regular patterns and order, suggesting "a text segmented into what almost look like sentences, with clear beginnings and clear endings."

Some of the pictographic signs were frequently repeated, Dr. Houston said, particularly ones that looked like an insect or a lizard. He suspected that these might be signs alerting the reader to the use of words that sound alike but have different meanings - as in the difference between "I" and "eye" in English.

All in all, Dr. Houston concluded, "the linear sequencing, the regularity of signs, the clear patterns of ordering, they tell me this is writing. But we don't know what it says."